Sat 7 Mar 2009
“Afetdaos (the war-affected) were reintroduced into the rhythms of life and stable society. People assumed that the war-traumatized, especially those who had spent time as kidnap victims or as soldiers, had been severed from the foundations of nurturance, and nurturance is antithetical to violent abuse. Numerous ceremonies exist to assist those who have been exposed to war and violence. Most involved cleansing ceremonies, physical and emotional healing, and practices to reintegrate the person back into the community and a healthy lifestyle.
One ceremony I participated in involved a woman who had returned after having been kidnapped by soldiers and held at their base for months. She returned physically sick and emotionally traumatized. The ceremony actually began days before the time of the public gathering. Community members stopped by to bring food, medicines, words of encouragement, and friendship. They helped the woman piece together a bit of decent clothing to wear, and collected water for her to bathe with. They sat patiently and told her stories of other atrocities: a constant reminder that the woman was not alone, nor was she somehow responsible for her plight. On the day of the ceremony, food was prepared, musicians called in, and a dirt compound shaded by pleasant trees and plants swept and decorated with lanterns and cloth. The ceremony itself lasted throughout the night, a mosaic of support and healing practices. Several high points included the ritual bath the woman received at dusk. Numerous women picked up the patient, and carefully gave her a complete bath – a cleansing of the soul as well as the body. The bathing was accompanied with songs and stories about healing, about dealing with trauma, about reclaiming a new life and being welcomed into the community. The patient was then dressed in her new clothing, and fed a nutritious meal. Shortly thereafter, the musicians began a new rhythm of music, and all the women gathered about the patient to carry her inside the hut. There they placed her in a ball on the floor and gathered round her, supporting her. The support was emotional as well as physical: they tended her wounds, they stroked her much like one would stroke a frightened child, and they quietly murmured encouragements and reassurances. After a while, the women began to rock the patient, and lift her up among them. They held her up with their arms, talking about rebirth in a healthy place, among people who cared for her, far from the traumas of war and the past. They carried her outside, where the community welcomed her as part of it. Everyone began to play music, the audience accompanying the musicians, and after a while, each member of the audience got up in front of the musicians and danced: for the patient, as part of the community, to reaffirm life. Slowly the formal structure of the ceremony gave way to the more natural patterns of community interaction, and the patient was drawn into these interactions. Throughout the ceremony, the woman was continually reassured with stories of ongoing support; of her need to place responsibility for her plight with war and not her own actions; and of her own responsibility to heal the war’s wounds so she does not inflict the violence that she was subjected to on others. Respected traditions and nonviolent values are revitalized in story, song, and interaction. With this, community is rebuilt for, and with, the patient.
…Becoming self-sufficient is an important part of a person’s reintegration into the community…Reintegration in this sense means helping a person reconstruct a viable life, a livable day. One powerful way of doing this in Mozambique is through farming. In an agricultural society, the rhythms of working the fields are at the core of healthy life. In agricultural work people are not only linked with the cycles of planting and harvesting, they are relinked with their ancestors and the traditions that keep society sound. Victims of violence were encouraged to begin farming plots of land. Often others in the community would work with them: giving solace, telling traditional stories, redirecting anger and vengeance into community building and positive political action, reminding scarred and battered limbs how to work.”